Walking toward recovery

Band director copes with daughter’s disorder


Photo by Angela Valle

Story by Misty Lopez, feature editor

It is as any other ordinary morning; they prepare for the day and wake up to see the people they love most. That’s just how the routine goes, or at least how everyone wishes for it to go. But on this specific morning, Sept. 10, 2016, their lives would be changed forever.

Band director, Kara Compton, woke up, got herself ready for the Four States Parade, and was ready to drop her 2-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, off at the sitter’s. But as she walked into her room, she could hear the sobs that came from her crib. Instantly, she could tell that something was wrong. Elizabeth was extremely fragile and was unable to move anything from her neck down.

“I picked her up, and it was like picking up a noodle,” Compton said. “So we rushed her to the emergency room, and they began to assess what was wrong, but nothing made sense, and they couldn’t decide what the diagnosis was. So within an hour, we were on a helicopter heading for Little Rock to get to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.”

Elizabeth Compton was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a cousin to Transverse Myelitis, which is an extremely rare disease that was first discovered in 1882. The spinal cord can be injured by a virus to the point where people who have it can have heart troubles, breathing problems, slow to no reflexes and digestive issues.

“A theory is that Transverse Myelitis is a mutation of Polio because it has polio-like symptoms. This virus attacks the spinal cord, causing paralysis,” Compton said. “The outcome for most patients varies. Some people get better, some people get worse, and some people stay the same.”

Fortunately, Elizabeth has been recovering, and is now able to walk. The journey has been very difficult, but as each day passes, progression is being made.

“It’s all about physical therapy. We were told from the beginning that there is no cure, no vaccine, no magic anything, but we were given medicine to prevent it from becoming worse. So the only proven way that they have seen kids get better is through therapy,” Compton said. “When we were in the hospital, we were on the rehab floor for about six weeks and it was physical therapy and occupational therapy twice a day and speech once a day, which was intense.”

Not only had therapy taken place at the hospital, but in the Compton’s home and daycare as well. Even though it’s been tough, they believe that it’s all been necessary for Elizabeth.

“When we got home, we continued therapy through a facility called Temple Rehabilitation Memorial. [Elizabeth] goes three times a week there, and we have people come to the house through another organization; everyday, about five times a week, Elizabeth is receiving therapy,” Compton said. “She’s even gotten to go back to day care, which has been huge, and we’re very proud of her for being able to do that. Her daycare is wonderful, and she gets therapy there too, and we constantly work at home as well. Any little game, like walking up our stairs or going outside is therapy for her. We’re just constantly working on getting her stronger.”

Many days of therapy, and tough times, have all had positive results, and each day, things are looking better and better. Thankfully, Elizabeth’s disorder had not gotten worse.

“It’s almost been a year, and she went from not being able to move anything, and that first day she wiggled her big toe, and that was huge and now she’s running over and hitting me in the face. She’s improved so much, and we’ve seen various other cases in which other children have it more severe. They have tracheostomies to help them breathe, and they have to be hooked up to all this machinery to be able to function, and Elizabeth didn’t have to have any of that,” Compton said. “So we’re very grateful to God for healing her because we were at a point where that could not have been an option. She beat all the odds and surprised all the doctors by achieving the success that she’s achieved.”

The Comptons learned how to pray in a different way, and have been very grateful for the success that Elizabeth has been showing day after day.

“We continue to pray for her and all of the children that are affected by any major illness. I remember seeing her on that ventilator and praying to God to get her off of it because I needed her back. It’s all been a blur and the longest year of my life,” Compton said. “But it’s made Elizabeth stronger, and before all this we’d freak out about, ‘oh her hair is not right today’ or ‘she doesn’t have the right dress on,’ and now none of that stuff matters. She’s here, we’re all here, she’s worked hard to be here. She’s my hero.”